biting at side when spurred...??
Hi everyone! I was hoping to get some input on how to fix this unwanted behavior.
So, this last fall, a friend of mine with little horse experience purchased a 2 year old gelding who had been started and successfully shown in western pleasure as a 2 year old. He obviously needs finishing and refinement, but from what I saw, he has a lot of potential, a really good start, and a great mind. So, since my friend is very green when it comes to horses, the gelding has mainly been sitting all winter, with the occasional ride from my friend. However, when she rides him, she pretty much just lets him do whatever he wants. She doesn't provide him with the structure that a young horse needs, in my opinion.
Since she won't have any time this summer to work with him and show him, we have decided that I should use him this summer as my show horse. That way, she will not be wasting his potential and will getting him back to where he needs to be. And I will get to fulfill my horsey needs as well – without having to buy another horse right now.
The issue is that he’s a slow moving horse by nature, and since he was sold as being “spur broke” by the previous owner, my friend has always ridden him in spurs. Since he has gotten used to getting away with things with her, he has now become somewhat spur sour, from the looks of things. I rode him the other day (I don’t have a ton of experience with riding with spurs, mind you) and every time you spur him (which is pretty much the ONLY way he will move), he would bend his head around and bite at his side where he’s being spurred. I don’t know if this is a pain issue, or if it’s a behavioral thing, so any advice is welcomed! How do I get him to stop doing this? When he gets to my farm, I am planning on working him daily and getting him back into a disciplined schedule. I feel like even doing just that will help a little bit. Also, I plan on working on his lunging extensively and getting him very responsive to verbal cues so as to kind of wean him off of his severe need for spurs. I don’t mind using spurs, but I don’t feel like a horse should feel like being spurred is the only way he’s going to listen to you.
Again, any advice is greatly appreciated!! Please let me know if you would do things differently! I also have access to a lot of knowledgeable horse people around me - western pleasure people and a trainer who isn't far away, so I won't be alone in this. :)
Kick him in the lips when he turns around.
I'm not a trainer, and not an expert on western pleasure [do they all use spurs?] but I've come to a conclusion just from what I've read so far. If he won't move unless you poke him in the side with pointy metal, and even then he only moves grudgingly, it sounds like there is some big holes in his training.
Probably best to go back to basics with this guy. No spurs. Break him over again.
Thanks for the pointers. From what I know, he really was started nicely. He even showed and won his class a few times as a 2 year old (MN paint futurity), so he really was a nice prospect last summer/this fall. I think the main problem is that a horse that fresh and young needs consistency. My friend bought him with the intentions of finishing him under the direction of a trainer, which never happened. Having no idea at all how to cue him or how to use him at all, really, she's let him slip back so much...and not knowing how or why to use spurs has made him spur sour, it seems to me. I agree that I'll need to start back with the basics with him. I feel like he just needs a refresher and a more experienced hand to get him back up to where he needs to be. Thanks for the advice!
You might want to ditch the spurs for now and use a riding crop. Use leg first and if after 4 seconds he doesn't respond, tap him with the crop behind your leg. One tap only and only a tap. Be consistant and he will learn that there is a connection between your leg and the tap. When using spurs, turn your toe out so the spur just touches his ribs. Spurs are meant for lift/refinement, not to get a horse moving. That's Hollywood.
I agree, ditch the spurs for now. Get along over and under (I prefer this to a crop) and ask gently with your legs. Then harder. Then take the over and under and well....Over and under him. Hard. Make him scoot his butt forward, because you don't have a million years to wait in a show for him to react to you. By asking nicely first he will grow softer to your leg. Just don't be afraid to really get after him because it sounds like he needs it. And if he tries to bite you, seriously, kick him in the lips. My three year old does that to me a LOT just because he's a busy body....And it drives me INSANE.
"Spur broke" is a way of riding a western pleasure horse. On a "spur broke" horse, pretty much all of your cues are given with the spurs, including stop. I tried riding a horse trained in this way and I ended up very frustrated because I didn't know what I was doing and would inadvertently cue the horse to stop or lower his head when I meant go. The reason for teaching a horse in this way is so the reins can be kept on a nice long "drape" while the horse is being controlled with leg cues.
I worked for a trainer who taught all of her students to ride this way with spurs and it is a skill that takes years to master. You say the horse showed successfully in W.Pleasure, if he has been really well spur broke and you and your friend don't have experience with this type of riding you could be confusing him causing him to act out in frustration. I wouldn't punish him for this behaviour until you have discussed the issue with a trainer that is very familiar with this type of riding.
Thanks everyone for the replies. When i said "spur broke" I really just meant that his previous owner used spurs with him and he was used to them and he knew what they meant, I guess. I didn't realize that it meant something that technical, oops! :) Since he's only 2 and was just started last year, I doubt that he was technically "spur broke" but I guess I will never know what kinds of things she was training him to do unless I ask her :) That's probably not a bad idea to get a hold of her and ask her some things. For now, I think I'm going to go back to basics with him and get him used to being more responsive withOUT the spurs before I bring that back into the picture (if at all). Thanks again!
I think going back to basics is the best bet. I'll second the over & under that sorrelhorse mentioned. It's my go to for youngsters that sull up, it will get one moving.
Even though he is only 2, if he was shown in a WP futurity, there's a real good chance that he was at that point spur trained. Wouldn't hurt to find a local trainer with experience in that department to do a one off ride and see if that is the case.
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